Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Ukrainian countryside mirrors their country's flag

In the past month, I have traveled to Ukraine 3 times. That is more than 30,000 miles in 30 days.
It is second nature at this point.
I know the airports, I know the routines. I know which way to go through customs and what line to stand in to get my passport stamped. I know that I have to take off my shoes at this security check area but do not need to remove my laptop.

I stop by the Costa Coffee shop when I'm in Moscow and order my latte and wait 3 hours for my flight to Kiev. I wash my face and brush my teeth at the same sink in the downstairs bathroom next to my gate during my layover.

This trip I travel alone.
I travel light, with one carry-on with all my stuff and a large checked bag containing donations for the sweet children at the orphanage. I pack them soccer shoes and jerseys I found on clearance. Deflated soccer balls and under garments are in there too. Hosting-mommy's ship me items for their loved ones. Homemade cookies "that taste like home" and converse black high top shoes. Small tokens of affections. Reminders that people love them.

I arrived in Ukraine last night, flying Aeroflot, my new favorite airline. Sergey picks me up late, like 1 minute late, and I hear him apologize 10 times on the 40 minute drive into downtown. Almost every 4 minutes, in broken English "I sorry, you fast, I sorry Keem." I assure him, I was fine, and its ok.
He brings me to Karen's and carries my luggage up the 5 flights of stairs.
Karen and I stay up until midnight talking like old friends. I catch her up on the adoption and the men trying to break into my room. She invites me to the production of the play she is producing with the kids she works with.
I am picked up at 7am the next morning and we make the two and half hour trip to the region.
We try to pick up the court deed, but it is not ready, so we go to the orphanage to get documents. This is a surprise visit as the director wasn't aware we were coming. 
We walk in, Roma in front of me.  I see adults quickly shuffling down the long hallway into the directors office. She has called a staff meeting for the 34 staff members. Cleaners with dusters in hand and a cook with a white chef hat on her head sweep by us.  
Roma and I sit on the couch outside her office. There are no kids. This is very strange since the last few times I have come Alex and the older boys were not in class. But today, Alex is no where to be seen.
I see two beautiful faces in the hallway. I walk toward them and them toward me. I give one girl a hug from me and then one more from her host mama who asked me to. Then I get a rib crushing hug from the other. So happy to see some friendly faces. They come and sit on the couch with us. "Where is everyone?" I ask. I get a shrug and "school".

The staff meeting is done and Roma rushes in and I follow suit, saying a quick bye to the girls on the couch.
The director looks as though she has been crying. The tone is very solemn as Roma and her talk. She begins to break down and tears stream down her face.
We are in there for 30 minutes as she talks and cries to Roma. Roma turns to me, "Do you have the donation?" I reach into my purse and pull out 1500 crisp American dollars. She gives us the documents we need. I give her a hug and I turn to look at Roma, but he has left. I chase him out the door...
"Roma, I didn't get to see my kids? Roma!" I call to him.
He says we have to go, and is basically sprinting to the car.
Confused and sad, I follow him. I open the car handle and sit in the back seat, "What is going on? Where are Yana and Alex?"
He says "you are sitting down..."
I wrote to Alex 3 times during the 6 days I was in the states.  I never got a response back. I could see he read the messages and that he was online but he never answered me.
This is not typical behavior for Alex.  He always responds. Always. And usually immediately.  
When I come to visit, he follows me from room to room. That boy opens the doors for me and carries my bags. He his my shadow when I am there.
This week, an employee from the orphanage, a caretaker told him he can't go to America.
This women told him that she will teach him a lesson and he will not have a family.
She told him that I will not love him anymore and that I will not take him back with me because of what he has done.
She said that no mother could love him.
She told him this because he had "bad behavior" at school.
Nothing more than what has happened in my second grade classroom this year.

Roma told me everything. He told me about the incident that involved Alex and provoked the employee to say these things to him.

Don't get me wrong, it was an impulsive decision and a bad choice.
 So I messaged him, "you ...? what were you thinking?"
I prayed, what do I do? what do I say?
...Grace is what came to me. Cover him with grace, blankets and blankets of grace.

I start to understand...
He didn't message me because he didn't want to tell me what happened.
He didn't message me because he didn't want me to know he messed up.
He didn't message me because he didn't want to lie to me.
This week he took in all that abusive, completely false information that was fed to him.
I am not going to love him. I am not bringing him to America. 
He internalized it and he believed it was true.
He believed I wasn't going to love him anymore.  If I knew what he did, or when I found out I would change my mind. 


Love is not based on works.
The Unconditional love of a family is not based on what you do.
They were treated by performance in the orphanage, not by who they were but by what they did.
That's not love.
Am I disappointed? Yes.
Am I surprised? For sure.
Am I sad that he hid it from me? Totally.
Do I still love him...ABSOLUTELY.

I mess up. We all mess up. We fall so short, but we are all loved always.
"With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love"
Ephesians 4:2

Today we got the court decree and went to where Yana was born and changed her birth certificate. Tomorrow (in an hour) I will be waking up at 3 am to drive the 7 hours to where Alex was born to change his birth certificate and tax number.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Little Bit of Drama

I want to start this blog with, I have never felt unsafe or fearful in Ukraine until 2:30 am on Thursday night.


I text Adam, from the window, hoping the one bar of wifi allows this message to go through so he knows what happened, my heart pounding out of my chest.
"2 men just tried to get in our room"

It was 4:30 pm in California and Adam's at work and completely helpless, he responds with a "What?"
The hotel hallway, 3 rooms and we are the first door

The ceiling of the restaurant

 After our celebatory dinner we drop the kids off back at the orphanage and bring them the goodies we bought at Eco-Market, my mom and Roma both go to bed, exhausted from the emotional day at court.

In search of some wifi, I decided to trek across the parking lot to the then empty restaurant and upload the pictures I have taken and write everything I can remember from the day. Which is my last blog entrée.
The restaurant

There is nothing around the Mushroom hotel. It is in between 2 small towns.
It is literally a bus stop consisting of 2 "hotels"(I use the word hotel, lightly as there are only 3 rooms available and sauna in the Mushroom) as well as a gas station without toilets, just an out-house.

I order a latte and a dessert from the 2 girls that work a 16 hour shift through the night in the hotel. I show them pictures I took  around town and talk to them (through a phone translation app).
A few people trickle in and out in the 3 hours I sit there. My mom comes down just as I am packing up, after having faced timed with Adam and  just publishing my blog. I have her read it for any errors knowing I always have a million typos.
As she is reading, I feel eyes on me and I look up. Two men in their 30's have turned their chairs from the table across the room and are staring at us.

 I remember Alex this summer unbuckling his seatbelt in my car and sticking his head out the window at some girls walking on the sidewalk as we drive by. I told him it was creepy, and that is NOT what girls like.
Knowing this I do not take their stares seriously but I am a little more on-the-alert.

Now that I am done writing, I see that as I go up to pay the bill they are watching me, and saying phrases in broken English to get my attention.
"I like you make up" and then they laugh.

 I continue to wrap up my computer cords and my camera, when I notice one man go outside and the other go towards the other room in the restaurant. I tell my mom to get the keys out for the hotel room.
She looks at me concerned. "Those guys are watching us," I tell her.

We walk outside, the cool air hits my face and bare arms. I didn't bring my jacket and feel the goosebumps pop up on my arms. 
We enter into the hotel passing the man sitting at the outside table, and quickly walk up the stairs. We unlock the door and get in. I lock ourselves into the room and start to get ready for bed.

We start the water in the sink to begin to brush our teeth, that's when we hear a loud knock at the door.
It is 2:30 am, and the knock was loud enough for us to know they were there and they wanted in.

They saw me at the restaurant. They saw my camera and my laptop and my ipad and my iPhone. They saw me and they watched me put all that stuff away in my carry on bag.

My mom and I are silent.  I run out of the bathroom to watch the door, knowing I locked it but fearful I didn't.

A tense feeling of terror rushes over me.
Do I bang on the concrete wall to wake up Roma in the room next to us? Do I yell for help? What do I do...
I grab my Ukraine phone, knowing I do not have money left on it, I scroll to Roma's number.

They knock again, they are not leaving and this time the knock was louder with a roar of laughter afterwards. I look up and see a land line attached to the concrete wall.

I watch as the men outside my door start to turn the door handle first quietly but then violently.

I dial 1-3, it is the only thing I understand on the phone. Everything else is written in Ukrainian.

The girls from the restaurant answer, I say in English  "men are in hotel"
They don't understand me.
"two men from restaurant in hotel"
They say something in Ukrainian and hang up the phone.

I can not help myself. There is nothing I can do, I am completely powerless. I don't know the word help, I don't know the word men, I don't know the word come here, I do not now the word emergency. I am in a foreign country and only thing saving me right now is a fairytale looking door. I turn to God.
I pray, "Please God."  (Basically all I have time for, but he knows my heart.)

The hallway is quiet now, the men must have heard me on the phone. This is when I text Adam.

There is a knock at our door, this time softer. My mom and I look at each other, we don't say anything again. Another soft knock.
I say "Da." A women's voice is on the other side of the door. I quickly unlock the door and open it. So happy to see the waitresses from the restaurant, They hand me a phone with a translation app.

I type what happen, they respond with "they are you neighbors."
There are 3 rooms in the mushroom, my mom and I are in one, Roma in another and the 2 drunk men in the third.

They tell me if they do it again they will call the guard (which is the police).

The rest of the night was fine and we were completely safe. I told Roma in the morning at happened and he insisted that I should leave with him to Kiev and not stay the extra night alone there, which was the original plan.

I agreed, we go to pack up everything and head to the orphanage to say goodbye to my kids. They thought I was spending the day with them, but I told them that plans changed. I did not worry them with the happenings of the night before.

 I have an extra bag that contained prom dresses and clothing for the kids but it was now empty. I told the kids to pack everything they do not need in the next month and I will bring it home.

A quick 30 minute visit and we are back in the car. This time was different, Yana and Alex walked me to the car, we hugged, I kissed them, I told them I love them and we said goodbye.

They called me mom.

Yana and V walk toward the orphanage as the car began to pull away. But Alex stayed and watched.

 We arrive in Kiev close to 3 hours later. Roma show us around quickly then heads home. My mom and I go to dinner then get ready our 3:00am visit from Sergey,the driver that will be taking us to the airport.

Our apartment for the night

This was a quick but eventful 72 hour trip. I became a mother of 4.
I left my children for the last time. 
I head back to Ukraine in 7 days (but not the mushroom hotel, never again).
Next trip:
I will pick my kids up, and they will be free. They will be no longer alone and no longer orphans in an orphanage. They will be a son and a daughter.
God's glorious plan. Amazing.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our Day In Court

Last time I was in Ukraine, it was winter.
Dark clouds, cold winds, and sudden flurries are no longer present here.

In two short weeks, the animated buildings now have a gorgeous spring back drop. Tulips popping out of the ground, red buds begin to bloom on almost bare trees, bringing a sense of new beginnings to an old, small town where nothing but the same thing happens.
But today, something did happen here,  something bigger than me, bigger than my family and bigger than the amazing community of people supporting and praying for us.

Before court

I woke up today in the mushroom hotel. Each room has theme, and this trip, my mom and I are staying in the raven room. I don't have words to describe the room, so here's a picture instead. I believe it speaks for itself.

I take my notebook, and red trapper keeper and walk down to breakfast in a pencil skirt, black tights and heels to the restaurant across the parking lot.
Continuing to review my notes: when I should I say "da" and when should I say "net" ? Oh the stress. 
I have been told by other adopted parents that usually court will take forty five minutes to an hour and really it is only a formality but, yesterday Roma sat me down at dinner and we had a little discussion.
"This is the judges first adoption."  "He had a preliminary on the17th" (which most judges opt not to have) "He wants Adam here."
Yuri, the driver,  picks Roma, my mom and I up after breakfast and we drive the 1 mile down the road to the orphanage.
With me was a large bag of clothing, food, shoes, and pictures from American host mama's giving their child a token to cling to, until they see them during summer.  
Most of the children are at school, except for the older ones. I guess school is optional for them, including Alex? I ask "why are you not in school?" He shrugs, and smiles. Yana is pulled out of school and comes within the first few minutes we are there.
They are excited to see Grandma Noreen, and she is excited to see them.

I give them the outfits to put on for court, and to my surprise, they both really really really hate them.

She would only let me take a picture in her room with the door closed. She wore a jacket the entire day.

 Adoption Court Hearing

The court room is small and free from all color, ironic since in Ukraine, most buildings architectural design are pretty ornate and indoor décor jumps out with the wildest of patterns from ceiling to floor. However, the only two additions to the room, besides the clutter-less tables and white walls are the Ukrainian flag and The Coat of Arms of Ukraine.
We all stand, as the judge enters the room. Court has began.
Well, actually it hasn't. We are having a second preliminary because Adam is not here. He goes through each form of our petition and speaks to the SDA representative, Nina, while Roma's, translates in my ear. After a 20 minute discussion about Ukrainian law and Nina explaining that I am allowed to adopt as single parent with Adam's consent, he and the jurors take a recess. Nina tries to follow, however is not welcome at the private meeting.
I am assured that he has no grounds to deny our petition but I feel stress coming out of my body in the form of sweat. My moisture filled hands, take off my jacket so I can breathe. "The worst he can do is postpone, and have Adam come." Roma explains.
I am missing my best friend so bad right now and I look to my mommy in the back row. She has no idea what is going on, since she can't hear Roma's translations but sees the worry written on my face and the body language of the room.
When they came back in, after taking what seemed like forever, the court hearing began.
We introduced ourselves, the judge reads every page.
I heard him say, and of course so did Yana and Alex, that no one from Ukraine wanted them for the past 10 years. I shutter.
They heard that no one has come to visit them for the 10 years they have lived in the orphanage, I think of every holiday, summer, school break. Forgotten. Abandoned.
They heard and felt the pain, I heard and felt their pain.
It was relentless, report after report of their life. He kept reading all the details, too personal to share publicly, the bone chilling truth. My kids are behind me and too far to comfort. I ache for them.  
Finally, it was time for the interviews.
My turn. I stand up.
He read the home study, he asks  "What does two and half bathrooms mean?" I explain, it was kind of a blessing of a question, a easy one to warm up to.
But then he starts throwing the curve balls...
"Do you make financial?"
"I don't understand can you repeat the question"
"What is more important, love or finance?"
"Love, ...." not really sure what I said, I think I rambled.
"Love? Not finance?" This time, he asks in a harsher tone.
"Yes, love..." Then I said something else, again I rambled.
I don't think I gave the answer he was looking for, so I shrink a little in my skin.
"You want to adopt in general?"
"No, I want to adopt these kids."
"You are called to adopt kids, in GENERAL?" 
"No, I want to adopt these kids. These are my kids, I love them." I raised my hands and began waving my thumbs backwards toward the two children sitting on the wooden lacquered bench behind me,  keeping my eyes solely on the judge in front of me, almost as though I was helping direct an airplane to it's gate from the jet way (I've been traveling a lot). I feel a few giggles in the room, because I probably looked ridiculous but I start to relax.
Nina's turn, she stand's up:
She explains our "first meeting" on the 2nd of April. Tears run down my face, as I re-live the moment, I see them for the first time in 8 months. The moment they truly knew, they were no longer going to be orphans.  I look up at the blonde curly haired juror in the orange sweater, she is crying too.
The director of the orphanages turn, she stands up:
The judge asks, "Why do you approve, aren't you sad? These are your kids?"
"Yes, but they are only my kids until the 11th grade. They will be her kids forever."
Well now, I am just trying to keep it together, but the tears are flowing faster and I know a deep breath is coming hoping it won't be a gasp. I am trying really hard not to make a scene.  I mean, I am front and center in this court hearing.
Alex's turn, he stands up:
He had it the worst. The judge hammered him with questions.
"Do you know what is going on here?"
"Do you know these people?"
"What are their daughters names?"
"Do you love them?"
"Did anything bad happen this summer?"
"There were no issue at all?"
Question after question, I sit there boiling with anger, and praying for the interrogation to end. It finally does, thank you God!

Yana's turn, she stands up, but slowly:
Oh Yana! She was some comic relief after the most uncomfortable 10 minutes.
"Do you know what is going on here?"  The judge asks. Yana nods, and Roma, tells her to speak.
She says "Da." We all wait for more... but she holds her ground and not a single word is spoken by her until the next question. The audience begins to smile at her antics. Next question.
"Do you want to be adopted?"
She says "Da." With a straight face, eyes glued to the judge. We are full-on grinning at this point, waiting for the judge's next move.
"Sit down." He says in English. She does.
My turn again:
I stand back up and state my order to social services...8 things I had to remember to say. Then it's over, well almost.

Court started at 2:00, and it is now 5:05... we've been sitting here for over 3 hours.
But, it is worth it, love always is.

Again, another forever goes by while the judge, two jurors and the secretary leave the room to make a decision.

They are mine! We get the approval.
Now for one with Grandma Noreen.

The hero's of the day, Nina and Roma. Words can not express how amazing these two individuals are, as they fight for orphan children to have the families they deserve.
We celebrate by going to Eco Market to purchase items for all 25 kids (yes, one more girl was added last week). Then, we go to dinner. A steak dinner.

A picture of Alex bringing one of the bags of goods home from the market, we are met with a posse of little friends waiting by the gate.
All of them excited to inhale the bananas, apples, soup, and much more.
 Love it, love them.
Kinetic sand, Wahoo!
After his shower with soap and shampoo :)

"Thank you for the dress!"

S  is a doll! 

"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Psalm 16:11

If you feel called to help for our final trip in less than 10 days, when we get to bring our kids home please do here.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The mushroom hotel and court prep

Wow, well today was a whirlwind and I am not quite sure when today started and yesterday ended because in the last 36 hours I have had about 3 hours sleep total, all in little hour chunks. The flights was good, nothing unexpected. My mom, a United flight attendant for 32 years was very impressed with the Russian airline, Aeroflot. 
They give us blankets, slippers, face masks and even a cute sticker to put on that says "wake me for meals." Love it!  

After our 3 connection we finally landed in Kiev. All bags were there and Serge was waiting for us as we walked out of the large sliding doors from customs. He drove us to a smokey restaurant in Kiev to meet Igor as we waited for the necessary papers for court tomorrow. 

When the documents were in hand, ink signatures still drying, we were on the bumpy two and half hour drive to the region.
My mom and I slept for a bit, but woke up to Serge out of the car talking to a police officer on the driver side door. Not sure what happened or why, but after he showed something from his bag he let us all go. I asked Roma what happened, but I didn't really get a reply, just a shrug. Serge was back in the driver seat and we were off again. I really didn't care and were glad we were on the move,  it has been 30 hours of traveling at this point. Maybe I'll ask again tomorrow.

We finally arrive at the beloved mushroom hotel.
 Oh sweet home away from home! I have my same room with 1 bar of wifi only if I stand on my bed and reach my arm up to the small single window toward the restaurant across the parking lot.

After bringing everything to our rooms, Serge headed back to Kiev and the 3 of us (Roma, my mom and I) came to eat and talk about tomorrow, and court! Dun Dun, DUN.

Anyone who knows me knows I HATE talking in front of people, so....boy 
 do I need prayers!!! 
First off I am going to have to talk to a bunch of people and not 8 year old second graders, real live adults. 

A judge (new and very by the book), 2 jurors, 1 secretary, a facilitator, the SDA representative, the prosecutor, the inspector, the orphanage representative, as well as Alex and Yana. Oh and my mom can not come in and will have to wait outside for the hour process.

Since public speaking is not my forte, I'll be either shaking or crying, but right now I feel like it might be crying and shaking because of the sleep deprivation.

I have taken 5 pages of hand written notes on college ruled paper that I should "memorize" before tomorrow. Some things that do not even make sense to my fuzzy brain right now. 

Apparently the judge wanted Adam to be here this trip. He does not believe Adam has given me consent to adopt Yana and Alex, even though we have the correct documentation. Really?!? What wife adopts two teenage kids without her husbands consent? 

On a positively amazing note:
I get to see the kids tomorrow and so does their Grandma Noreen. We will be bringing them the clothes I bought them for court. They are going to look so cute.
 I'll take pictures!

God willing, if all goes well tomorrow, it's only 11 days until we get the court decree saying Alex and Yana are my kids. MY KIDS. My. Kids. 
So cool.

I learned more about my last trip and it seems like there are a ton of Monday holidays in Ukraine, which  means more time to process papers. I will know exactly tomorrow. This will extend the length of the third trip (again), more than originally thought.

I know it's all in His perfect timing, but I just want to be home with my kids, all my kids. Basically, I want my timing.

More tomorrow. Good night friends!

If you feel called to donate to help bring these amazing children home, please do so at our donation page. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

blending cultures

"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,"
2 Timothy 3:14

On the first night, Karen, Ally and I talked drinking tea around Karen's kitchen table. We told our stories, Ally spoke about her adoption, Karen spoke about her ministry and the work she was doing in Ukraine helping orphans, educating families, and I talked about Yana and Alex and why we  decided to adopt.
But like any good conversation, it evolved and we found ourselves giggling about some of the folktales that are passed down by babushka's in Ukraine. I shared a few that we had uncovered during summer hosting, Ally shared as well, but Karen having lived in Ukraine for 10 years now had a wealth of knowledge on the superstitions.

During our second trip the grocery store, Alex and Yana were able to come with us. We were with a the driver who was an orphanage employee so it made it ok to take them. (although I did have to sign something, still not sure what it said since it was in Ukrainian)

We went and filled up two large carts with goods for the children at the orphanage. Yogurt, top ramon soup (huge hit), salami, banana, apples, loaves of bread, and so much more. After leaving the store, our facilitator, Roman, was still not back, he had to run to the SDA office to pick up more documents for me to sign, so we waited outside the store with bags of treats.

Patiently waiting, I decided to sit down on the curb.

Alex began to tell me to get up, Yana was shocked and just was shaking her head in disbelief. 
"No, No...up up" gesturing me to stand up and not to sit on the floor.

The conversation I had 6 days prior, popped into my head.
 Oh how sweet, I think to myself, he is worried about me.

Knowing why he is so insistent, I quickly get up and ask "why no sit on floor?" Although I totally think I know why.

Alex bends down and puts his palm against the floor next to where I was sitting. He thinks for awhile and then replies "You sick." He didn't have the English to tell  what I was told my first night in Ukraine.

If a women sits on the cold floor her uterus could freeze.

I guess even little babushkas will come up to you and tell you to get up.

Love that boy.
I write a quick imessage to Adam and wait until I have wifi to send it,
Remind me to tell you that Alex cares about my Uterus.
His response was,

Disclaimer, I did a quick search on the internet and couldn't find anything about it, but there has got be a reason behind a culture believing this. Please comment below if you know anything about this,  I want to know.

But seriously how cute is that, he loves his mamma  :)

Adoption update.
I have my final court date. Alex and Yana will be my kids on April 24th. I will be traveling back to Ukraine in 12 short days. This trip will be only to show up at court. Then I come home.

When do they come to America?
My third and final trip. I go back exactly 10 days after my court date.  During this trip I will need to get their visas, passports, medical documents, and birth certificates so they will be able to enter this country as legal citizens and my children.
That trip is the longest and most expensive of the three trips.

This part of my journey is almost over and a new chapter of being a mommy of 4 is starting to begin.

As always if you feel called to help bring these kiddos home to a family that will love, respect and honor them, please do so here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Where my kids grew up

Four days of bonding, and blending and becoming a family.

We were able to walk around the small town seeing the store,  the pond, the park. The Wild chickens, and the smell of burning garbage filled the streets.

In Ukraine many of the cities and towns do not have trash disposal set up, no landfills, so the people burn their trash.

However in their town, the people bring their trash for the orphans to burn. 10-16 year old kids burn garbage together in groups during their school day.. No wonder Yana had dark dirt lines on her bare neck, It was ash from a never ending chore. To top it off the orphanage does not provide them with supplies like soap or hot water.

 Broken asphalt with large cracks of rubble line the streets and roads in Ukraine. All rides are bumpy to say the least unless you are in Kyiv (and even then sometimes). The center divider line more like a guideline and not necessarily a restriction. Cars swerve to either side of the road to make a pass, dodge hitch hikers, or avoid falling into potholes.  All of this making diving a terrifying experience for a visitor, so when arriving in the village, I was happy to hear most people walk in this small town of less than 1000 people.

As we explore, I learn the library is also a disco, the grocery store is the size of my kitchen, and the "hospital" is someone's home. This is where my children have grown up.

Yana has 4 students in her class, and when hearing this I can't help but think of the middle school she will be attending, I am guessing it is at least 400 times what she is use to.

Don't get me wrong, Ukraine has beauty to it and is quaint and charming, wood shudders on the windows, red benches next to old blue fences in front of a home. There is a sense of safety about everyone knowing everyone.  Except when you are an orphan, there is a constant stigma that can never be erased. Everyone knows everyone and everyone knows you were abandoned and unwanted. And the town treats you as such.
In the only store in town
We walk down a small hill to see the store, but as we do, school lets out and the kids learned that we were walking around. All of the sudden, over 30 kids ages 7-16 surrounded us. 3 orphanage workers came out of no where and started screaming at them violently while shewing them back up the hill, looking at the visitor in a way of pride, almost like saying we run a tight ship. 

Disappointment on their faces as they are being scolded.  For what?... trying to find the new faces of people that bring them food and look at their pictures, the people that will notice them.. Many turn around still while walking up the hill just to be able to say "Privet" to one of us and give us a smile. We smile at them, and wave has they walk backwards up the hill. They turn around and skip, someone saw them today. Bliss. A memory for them to hold on to.

As Yana, Alex, Ally, and I (with Roman because he's our body guard, Ally and I joke) re-enter the orphanage I see the 10 year old boy that asked me for more gum on Friday.  At the store I had picked up 3 packs for him and left it on his bed. When I told him, he squeezed his chubby hands together, clapped and jumped up and down. He ran inside to find that some had already stolen it.
Actually, the body soap we had purchased earlier in the week had been stolen from the younger kids too. I had written in my last blog the thrill of the young boys having something of their very own running up and down the hallway with their very own soap. And hearing of this and seeing the disappointment on W's face about his gum, I am filled with anger.

Roman reminds me the cycle of abuse and orphan dynamics, while Yana and Alex are on a hunt for who stole the gum. "I know, I know," I say to Roman,  "but there just such jerks (I used another word) to each other."
I am told the  older kids trade it for cigarettes, not because they like to smoke but because it stops them from being hungry.

Alex enters the room and gives me a hug, obviously he can tell I am livid. I tell him to look in my purse, and he finds some loose gum pieces at the bottom of it left over from the airplane and gives them to W. W turns around and shares the gum with 5 of his friends, Yana being one of them. I am no expert but, it almost seems like the younger kids watch out for one another and the older are more like instigators, probably just dishing out what they endured when they were younger.

Their standard of living is stuck on survival. Steal food, goods, money to buy or trade for the things you need to live, not luxuries but necessities.

I ask Alex if anyone ever messes with Yana, knowing she is younger, Alex laughs. No one wants to mess with Yana. I believe him, Yana is feisty.

I thank God I am getting them out of there in a short 4 weeks and pray that the other kiddos find families so they can get out of that place too, it's poison. They are broken and sad, they need someone to love them, they deserve it.

Bonding blending and becoming... now its back to broken.

It was the last day with them and that night headed back to Kyiv then San Diego. And although I am excited to come home and see my girls and Adam, I find myself crying in the car driving away.

The words "thank you for coming Ukraine, I love you mom." Ring my in my ears. Alex watches me walk out the door.
 Yana turns away and goes back to her room to eat the snacks she was given, That stupid wall is up again, no tears and a side hug..."bye Keem" (she called me mom all weekend?) Her pain is so apparent, even though she tries to hide it.

 I hate leaving them, but by this Friday  I will know my final court date and will be back again with in the month. The adoption will be final this month. THIS MONTH PEOPLE!!!!

Thank you to all who have donated and prayed to give these two children a life outside of this small town in Ukraine. Thank you all for giving them a family. As always if you feel called to help you can  do so here.